Epigraphical documents in general consist of five principal components such as the mangala, descent of the donor, particulars of the donor, nature of the gift endowed and the concluding imprecatory or benedictory passages.
Imprecations are indignant curses inflicted upon contraventors, while benedictions are compliments bestowed upon protectors of charitable endowments. Some points of religious and social significance emerge by a fair appraisal of these appendices to epigraphs.
The earliest scriptal vestiges found in Tamilnadu are the Jaina brahmi inscriptions, ascribable to the 2nd century B.C. to 3rd-4’h century A.D. engraved in natural caverns which once served as abodes of Jaina recluses.
1 These short label documents of the holy Sramanas and the pious Sravakas are devoid of curses and compliments.
The epigraphical records of the Pallavas and early Pandyas (6″’-9th century A.D.) contain rather simple imprecations and benedictions and they echo mainly the deep religious sentiments of the people.
The sin of killing a cow on the bank of river Ganga, the collective sins of those residing between Ganga and Kanyakumari etc., are pronounced on those who hinder or violate dharma, particularly in the inscriptions of the Hindus.
2 The benedictory passages are also of a simple nature stating that the illustrious feet of those who protect dharma would be ever borne on the head of the donor of the gifts.
3 Protecting the dana given107to temples accrues religious merit and those who do so would attain heaven, while those who neglect it would find a place in the infernal world.
4The Jain inscriptions, on the other hand, do not carry such inelegant clauses. However, there are a few exceptions. Perpetuating a dana or reviving an endowment was considered to be a sacred act. Hence, the Pallava princess, Kadavarkonpavai, who revived a discontinued land grant of the Malainatha Jaina temple is eulogized as the protector of dharma (aram) at Chittamur.
5 Provision had been made for lighting a lamp before the image of a Tirthankara at Uttamapalayam and people who have faith in dharma should perpetuate the endowment without fail.
6A special imprecation is appended to an inscription of Nandivaraman Pallavamalla. The Jaina temple at Kilsattamangalam, near Vandavasi, received a gift of seven kalanju of gold in 745 A.D. for feeding the monks who were not in regular establishment of the temple and the gift was entrusted to the ur assembly of the village. Its members were warned not to flout the grant, lest they would incur the sin of destroying Kamakottam.
7 The temple dedicated to the principal goddess of the town Kanchipuram is Kamakottam_and causing its destruction had been considered to be the most irreligious act by the Hindus. In the present context, the epithet Kamakottam cannot be taken to mean the shrine of yakshi. The hymns of Tevaram
8 and several later inscriptions found in and around Kanchipuram refer to Kamakottam as the shrine of Kamakshi only. Obviously, the deep religious sentiment and sanctity attached to the temple of Kamakshi not only by the Hindus, but also by the Jains is, thus, articulated in the appendix of this epigraph.
The Chola inscriptions till about the 11th century A.D., as of the Pallavas, possess only simple forms of imprecations and benedictions. The transgressor cursed with sins committed by people residing between Ganga and Kumari is analogous in them.
9 Besides, slogans such as ‘Hail dharma ‘Do not forsake dharma ‘Dharma ’ is the only way for salvation etc. are dovetailed in108many of them.
10 People who dislodge the land grant made in 966 A.D. to the Pannahesvara temple at Velappadi near Vellore are cursed to incur the collective sins of those people living between Ganga and Kumari, while the sacred feet of those who protect the gift would be borne on the head by the donor.
11Causing hindrance to the gift donated (in 1002 A.D.) for the prosperity of Rajarajachola-I to the Parsvanatha temple at Tirunarungondai near Ulundurpet, was considered anti-dharmic and those attempting to do so would incur the sins committed by human beings residing between Ganga and Kumari.
12 People are, therefore, advised ‘not to forget dharma, for it is the only means of life’.
13 It is worthy of note that the innumerable epigraphical records of great monarchs like Rajaraja I and Rajendra I do not daub themselves with repugnant imprecations on violoators of dharma. Perhaps, their imperialistic outlook had not rallied round very much on curses as a punitive measure to curb religious offences.
But from about the 12th century A.D. onwards, the imprecatory passages grew in length and various forms of curses are heaped on the heads of evil-doers, especially in the records of the Hindus. The same trend in a milder form is echoed in Jaina epigraphs also. For instance, people who defy the donation of forty cows made to the Tirunarungondai temple are cursed to incur the sin of molesting women.
14 Men who bring about the destruction of the land grant made to the Chittamur temple by a Sambhuvaraya Chieftain would be treated drohins to the king.
15 No doubt, these uncouth imprecations in a way bear ample testimony to the general degenerate socio-political trend which had set in when the imperial Chola state lost its equilibrium heading towards a total eclipse.
A phenomenal increase of benedictions and imprecations is witnessed in the epigraphs of Vijayanagar and later periods. In almost every Hindu inscription, the protector of the charity is blessed with several merits, while the destroyer is cursed to the maximum possible extent. The Jaina records are also no exception to this approach, but curses are expressed only in a lighter vein.
No doubt, these passages mirror the religious sentiments of the devotees and the sanctity attached to the act of charity. However, some of the imprecations are pregnant with nauseating terminologies which in turn reflect the general deterioration of social standards and moral values. Selective examples given here under echo such a nature of the later epigraphical wealth.
In the year 1582 A.D., Timmappa Nayaka, the agent of Atchutappa Nayaka, granted some lands to the drummers and musicians of the Parsvanatha temple at Chittamur. It is stated that people who flouted this grant would incur the sin of killing a cow on the bank of river Ganga. Besides, they would be ordained as great sinners and would go only to hell.
16 The sarvamanya land grant made to the devaradiyars of the same temple by Venkatapati Maharaya in 1586 A.D. had to be protected by all, otherwise the sin of kohatti would befall on them.
17 The same king also made a similar grant in favour of the devaradiyars, drummers,pandits etc., in 1603 A.D. If any hindrance was caused to the dana, the offenders would incur the sins of not only killing a cow on the bank of Ganga, but also killing their father and mother.
18.The cow being a sacred and bountiful animal should not be killed. The Jainas, adhering to the principle of ahimsa, had therefore warned people not to stray away from the righteous path. Patricide and matricide are heneious crimes in a civilized society and hence dislodging a grant was equated with such unpardonable acts.
It may not be out of context to mention that ridicule of the Jaina sect is alluded to in the concluding imprecatory part of a few Hindu lithic records. During the reign of Kulottunga Chola III, certain taxes were remitted in favour of the Thiruvannmalai Siva temple and men who misappropriated the tax-revenue would be branded as bearers of the kundika (Kamandala) of the Jaina monks, beef-eaters and Sivadrohins.
19 It is stated in an inscription of Harihara that the residents of Tenkarainadu should bear the expenses for the conduct of worship in the Siva temple at Maravapalayam, otherwise they would incur the sin of killing seven 110or eight Jainas even in their next birth.
20 Thus, the general discontent shown towards the Jainas by the Hindus in late medieval times is hinted at even in the imprecatory portion of lithic records.
To sum up, the Jaina epigraphical records are not replete with imprecations and benedictions as those of their Hindu counterparts. The style of the imprecatory passages in particular come closer to each other, while the tone of their language has a marked difference.
Majority of the inscriptions reveals the deep religious sentiments of the people and utmost care shown towards charity and charitable endowments. Hence, aspersions are cast on those who flout the dana and the dharma. Militancy never finds a place in Jaina inscriptions as the Jainas have firm faith in ahimsa and tolerance.
Lithic records of the Vijayanagar and later periods abound in despicable imprecations. There was a change in the politico- socio-religious set up of South India with the advent of the Vijayanagar rule. Increase of crimes and punishments is borne out by their inscriptions.
Obviously, the later hideous imprecations reflect the general deterioration of social standards and moral values. Curses were also looked upon as a sort of punitive measure to curb religious offences.
(Published in Proceedings of the Tamilnadu History Congress, Chennai, 2007)
1. I.Mahadevan, Corpus of Tamil-Brahmi Inscriptions, pp.4-12.
2. SII, Vol.XII, Nos.72, 95, 109.
3. Ibid., Vol.Xn, Nos.39,47, 54.
4. Ibid., Vol.XII, No.34
5. ARE., 203/1902, 577, Vol.VII, No.830.
6. SII, Vol.XIV, NO. 128.
7. M.D.Sampath, “Jaina inscriptions of Kilsattamangalam” in Seminar on inscriptions, 1963, pp.157-158.
8. A.Ekamabaranathan, Temple and image worship,
(in Tamil), p.107.
9. SITI, Vol.I. Nos.70, 75.
10. SII, Vol. VII No. 1015, 1013, SITI, Vol.I, No.73.
11. Epi. Ind, Vol.IV, pp.81-83, SII, Vol.I, No.51.
12. SII, Vol.VI, No. 1015.
13. SITI, Vol.I, No.70 and SII, Vol.VI, NO. 1015.
14. SITI, Vol. I No.80
15. SII, Vol.VII, No.829.
16. SITI, Vol.XII, No.29.
17. Ibid., Vol.I, No30.
18. Ibid, Vol.I, No.31.
19. ARE, 559/1902
20. SITI, Vol.I No.322.